On User Research, Analytics, and Usability Testing: An Interview with Taimour Azizuddin

TA HeadshotI recently spoke with Taimour Azizuddin, who has a background in Media Studies and works as an independent consultant–doing user research, usability testing, and various media analytics–for early-to-mid-stage startup companies. We talked about the unpredictability of his work day, the need to “speak the language” of co-workers who come from different discipline backgrounds, and the importance of working for a company whose values match your own.

[Please note that Taimour’s answers in this transcript are not verbatim; the interview was recorded by hand.]

Where do you currently work and what is your job title?

I’m an independent consultant and I do user research, usability testing, and all kinds of media analytics. I work with early to mid-stage start-up companies.

What is your educational background?

I have a BA in Media Studies from UC Berkeley and beyond that most of my UX skills I’ve learned on the job.

What interested you in UX?

I didn’t know what it was when I was in school. I was interested in marketing. It’s just with the nature of working in the marketing space…it was a natural progression from marketing to UX; I became more and more interested [in UX].

What does a normal work day look like for you?

There really is no normal day…in the morning I check up on ongoing tests…I do a lot of website testing, conversion-rate optimization…looking at data and incorporating it…I’ll conduct tests in person or remotely. It’s mostly understanding the needs of the companies I work with…with start-ups, they change their directions every week… From week to week it can look different—we’re iterating rapidly.

Have you ever had to advocate for UX? Have you ever been in a situation at a job where people thought intensive UX was unnecessary? I know there are some companies/institutions who don’t see its value, or even think improving user experience doesn’t need to involve any users—they think all decisions can be made by the so-called “experts.”

Everyone at least pays lip service…they know [UX] is important, but don’t do anything about it. How many resources are they going to use?…I think this is where the quantitative stuff comes in handy…often times, especially with businesses, or engineers…stats are what can ultimately provide the ammunition we need. Of course transcripts from interviews (one-on-one, focus groups, diary studies, etc.) are also valuable.

What kind of challenges have you faced as a UX professional? For example, I noticed, there can be a disconnect between UX Researchers/Designers and programmers. I’m also sometimes concerned that I don’t know enough programming.

Yeah, totally, I have the same issue with programming…it’s a big skills gap. Working with product managers, programmers…they speak a different language. I know basic HTML and I’m trying to teach myself some front-end stuff. It just helps me communicate better and understand their issues better…It’s best to speak their language.

There are some folks that don’t understand user research and best practices, they’ll say: “Hey, I’m going to test this wireframe with a group of users.” They’ll then ask leading questions and end up with skewed results.

What advice would you give to aspiring UX professionals?

In terms of resources, Google is your friend; everything’s online. I know it sounds cliché, but definitely network and talk to folks. My advice is to follow your passion and do what feels good to you. You can find yourself in situations when your personal design process is not reflected; find a place that matches your own values.

Thank you, Taimour, for taking the time to speak with me!